If you’re like most founders, then these things probably come easily to you:
You can identify a problem you can solve for customers.
You can create a great product or service.
You can deliver a great experience for your customers.
Even selling to friends and warm referrals have come pretty easy you…
Now, what’s not so easy?
It’s something that nearly every business owner is challenged with (myself included!), whether you’re just starting up or when you’re further along…
Selling to Strangers.
Why is this selling to complete strangers such a challenge?
Strangers don’t know you.
They don’t know people who know you.
They’ve never heard of your product or brand.
Strangers don’t like being sold to. Think about it, none of us do, right? And we’re being honest, it’s pretty rare to have a product or service that truly sells itself, with little or no effort.
It doesn’t matter how great your product is…
It doesn’t matter how much your early customers love it…
It doesn’t matter how strong your personal network is…
It doesn’t matter how much you “hustle”…
…You will run into this dilemma eventually.
Soon enough, you’ll learn that the only way to grow your business to the next level is to attract complete strangers to your website, bring them through your sales funnel, and convert them to customers.
And you’ll need to do this at scale.
In this guide, I’m going to show you how that’s done using an evergreen content-based sales funnel.
Oh, in case you’re wondering who I am, I’m Brian Casel (Hi! ????). I’m the founder of Audience Ops. We specialize in done-for-you content tailored to our client’s most ideal customers.
OK, now let’s dig in…
A Content-Based Sales Funnel
The system that you’ll need in order to be able to sell your product to complete strangers and do it at scale is what I call a content-based sales funnel.
A content-based sales funnel is fueled by key content assets that you’ll put into place.
These content assets–which I’ll tell you all about in a moment—are there to ensure that complete strangers find you, give you their attention, build trust and eventually connect with your solution to their problem.
Now let’s get more specific.
TOFU / MOFU / BOFU… Huh??
The savvy content marketers out there may have heard of the concept of TOFU / MOFU / BOFU. Have no idea what I’m talking about? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Let me explain.
This is simply a way to classify all of your key content assets:
TOFU, or top-of-funnel assets are the first line of content that complete strangers may come in contact with.
Examples of TOFU content might be social media posts or blog articles.
MOFU or middle-of-funnel assets are the pieces that help your prospects more clearly resonate with the problem that your product or service solves for customers.
Examples of MOFU content would customer case study articles or email nurture sequences.
BOFU, or your bottom-of-funnel assets are the pieces that help customers make their buying decision.
Examples of BOFU content would be your pricing page, FAQs, free samples, your sales demo, and so on.
If your business already has paying customers, then you’ve got your bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) figured out. You’ve got a pricing, signup, and delivery flow that’s working for you. Sure, you’ll spend the life of your business optimizing the bottom of your funnel to drive higher conversion rates.
But when you’re ready to grow and scale, optimizing the bottom won’t drive more people (strangers) into your funnel.
It’s your top-of-funnel and middle-of-funnel content that will help you attract more new people and convert them into warm leads who will eventually come to the bottom of your sales funnel.
This where I’ll focus the rest of this guide.
So here are the 5 essential content assets that you’ll need to fill out your sales funnel so that you can systematically convert more and more strangers into leads.
- Evergreen Articles
- Lead Magnets
- Case Studies
- and Social Media posts.
Top of Funnel Content Assets
We’re going to start from the top of your funnel and work our way down to the middle and lower end of your funnel here…
Your blog content is one of your key Top-of-funnel assets you have.
I call them “Evergreen” articles, because they’re intended to provide value to readers today, tomorrow, next year, and beyond.
In other words, rather than posting news about your latest feature release, these articles should teach and educate about the problem your business solves for customers.
By building up your archive of evergreen articles, you’re enabling your site to steadily grow its organic traffic. Your content attracts traffic organically through channels such as:
- Search traffic: People search for answers in Google
- Referral traffic: Other sites linking/quoting your content, or mentions of your content in communities and forums.
- Social media traffic: You and your audience Tweeting and sharing your content on Facebook, LinkedIn and other networks.
On top of that, your evergreen article assets serve as entryways where visitors pour into the top of your sales funnel. As you grow your archive of evergreen blog articles, you’re adding more and more ways for people enter your funnel.
That of course, brings me to…
Lead Magnets are content assets are developed for the purpose of incentivizing visitors to join your email list by offering them something of value when they join. Think of lead magnets as the mechanism that turns a casual fly-by visitor into an email subscriber.
You might also think of these pieces as moving a person from the very top of your funnel into the middle of your funnel.
I recommend having at least two types of lead magnets in your funnel:
Content Upgrades are specific pieces of bonus content attached to individual blog articles. For example, a downloadable checklist, a worksheet, or a template.
These convert really well because they’re highly relevant to the topic of the article, and they give the reader something actionable to help with whatever problem they’re seeking answers about.
Ideally, you’ll create a unique Content Upgrade to go with every evergreen article that you publish.
Speaking of which, here’s a Content Upgrade for this very article, (so meta!):
Global Lead Magnets
Global Lead Magnets, on the other hand, can be promoted throughout your site, all year long and beyond. You can run ad traffic to them or promote them on social media.
Typically, these are lengthier content assets, such as an eBook or a drip email course.
The topic for your Global Lead Magnet should be highly focused on the core problem your business solves for customers. The goal is to position your product or service as the logical next step after learning the best practices you just educated them on.
Believe it or not, email—not your website—is where most of the action happens within your sales funnel.
Email also happens to be the area where most businesses leave lots of opportunity on the table!
I’ll share the two most common mistakes with you along with a couple of tips to get the most out of your email marketing strategy.
Mistake #1: Failing The First 2 Weeks
The first mistake we see companies make is failing to capitalize on the first 2 weeks of a subscriber’s time on your list.
It’s in this period when they’re most interested in what you’re offering—whether that’s the solutions you’re teaching them or potentially the solution that you sell. So it is imperative that during these first few weeks, while your subscriber is the warmest and most excited as they’ll ever be about your brand, that your email marketing system is delivering several emails that both educate and inform the person about your product.
A drip email course campaign is a great asset to put to work here.
Mistake #2: Failing to Follow Up
The next email marketing mistake we see is a failure to follow up with subscribers on an ongoing basis.
As you know, only a small percentage of new visitors convert to buyers when they first discover you. The vast majority—usually over 90%—will take months before they’re truly ready to buy a product from you.
That’s why you need weekly follow-up emails to keep your name/brand coming back to their inbox and delivering value—in the form of educational content, not just offers to buy, buy, buy (that’s a great way to get marked as spam).
Repurposing Content for Email
This is where repurposing comes in handy.
If you’re publishing new evergreen articles on a weekly basis, you can send a weekly email newsletter to announce your latest article. It’s best if the writer who wrote the article also writes this email so that it has their personal touch and they can “sell” people on clicking the link.
And here’s another tip when it comes to email: Make them plain text and personalize them.
Don’t use HTML templates or graphics.
Make it look and read like a regular email that you’re getting from a real person who works at a real company (because that’s exactly what it is).
Plain text, thoughtfully written emails are much more likely to be opened and acted on.
Now we’re getting into the middle and lower part of your funnel. As customers come closer to making a buying decision, they’ll want and need to see proof that your product has worked for other customers who are like them.
Testimonial quotes on your homepage are good to have. But case study pieces can make a much greater impact.
What I’m talking about here is actually developing an entire article all about one of your best customers. Tell the story of how they experienced a problem in their business and how they implemented your solution and the results they’ve seen. Stories like this help potential buyers relate and put themselves in the shoes of your customers, which makes them much more likely to buy.
We aim to produce case study pieces the same way a journalist produces an investigative piece. We interview a customer and record the conversation, then weave in their quotes with our own background research to build a compelling case study article.
Once it’s ready, you can publish your case study articles along with your other blog content, send it to your email list, and work it into your automated email campaigns to nurture subscribers as they make their buying decision.
Now let’s pause for a second and come back to the very top of the funnel and answer the question that everybody is wondering:
How do you drive new traffic—strangers—to your site’s content and do it at scale?
As I covered above, when you’re publishing high quality, evergreen content on a consistent schedule, you’ll naturally grow organic traffic from search and referrals. But that’s a mid-to-long-term ramp.
But what you really need are levers you can push to actively drive more traffic, faster.
Social Media Content
That’s where your social media content comes in, and this is the 5th key content asset you’ll need to fill out your sales funnel and sell to strangers.
First, you’ll want to make sure that you have a steady stream of Tweets and Facebook Posts going out to promote your evergreen articles as well as your lead magnets. In other words, for every new article, you should be scheduling 10+ unique social posts with pull-out quotes, variations of the title, and so on. You should also set up evergreen looping posts so that your content is being pushed out all year long.
Our software, Ops Calendar, handles both queuing and looping social posts to promote your blog content automatically.
Now once you have your own social channels automated, you’ll need to gain more exposure to new visitors.
The most common way is to use Facebook ads.
In all our tests, the lowest cost per click comes from promoting an evergreen article to targeted audiences on Facebook. Not landing pages, not sales pages. Just your free, evergreen articles.
These days, B2B audiences are savvier when it comes to clicking on sponsored content in their newsfeeds, but we’ve found that promoting evergreen articles still works really well. Of course, you should have Content Upgrades embedded in your blog articles so that you can convert that traffic into email subscribers.
You can also run retargeting ad campaigns to recent visitors to your site and your blog articles. These work really well because the audience is already aware of your brand.
Lastly, it helps to spend some time answering questions on Quora and other communities where people are asking questions that relate to your content. Offer genuine, helpful answers, and include a link to your content, if it’s relevant.
To recap, there are two key ideas I want you to take away from all of this:
- The only way to grow is to go beyond your personal network and attract strangers at scale.
- The way to do that is to build a content-based sales funnel that attracts and builds trust with strangers, systematically.
I covered the 5 key content assets you need to fill out this sales funnel:
- Evergreen blog articles, which help you grow organic traffic and give you material to go out and actively promote.
- Lead Magnets, which give your visitors entry-points into your email list and sales funnel.
- Emails, which nurture new subscribers in their critical first 2 weeks, and then follow up on a weekly basis for the long-term.
- Case Studies to help customers see themselves buying from you
- Social Media to promote and re-promote all of these content assets to your existing audience and to new visitors through promoted posts and influencers.
At this point, you’re probably thinking: That’s all great, but now you’ve got two big hurdles ahead of you:
How—or rather who—will take on the task of creating all of these content assets and ensuring consistent quality?
Who will handle all of that legwork of setting up, publishing, assembling the workflows, the emails, the social media promotion, and the rest?
Audience Ops specializes in creating high-quality content, researched and tailored to attract your ideal customers. Learn more and request a free consultation.